About the Reformer
But the Reformer of the 14th century was more than a scholar and publicist. Like John Wesley, he had a practical bent of mind, and like him he attempted to provide England with a new proclamation of the pure Gospel. To counteract the influence of the friars, whom he had begun to attack after his return from Bruges, he conceived the idea of developing and sending forth a body of itinerant evangelists. These “pore priests,” as they were called, were taken from the list of Oxford graduates, and seem also to have included laymen. Of their number and the rules governing them, we are in the dark. The movement was begun about 1380…
Although this evangelistic idea took not the form of a permanent organization, the appearance of the pore preachers made a sensation. According to the old chronicler, the disciples who gathered around him in Oxford were many and, clad in long russet gowns of one pattern, they went on foot, ventilating their master’s errors among the people and publicly setting them forth in sermons. They had the distinction of being arraigned by no less a personage than Bishop Courtenay “as itinerant, unauthorized preachers who teach erroneous, yea, heretical assertions publicly, not only in churches but also in public squares and other profane places, and who do this under the guise of great holiness, but without having obtained any episcopal or papal authorization.”
—Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church
Pulling It Together
It was the last week of December in 1974. The young brother had been hanging around the church office where the two pastors asked each other what they were preaching about during the Watchnight Service on New Years Eve. First one preacher said, “I’ll be out of town over the New Year.” Then the other responded, “Me too.” They were a young church and ringing in the new year together had become a favorite service of the congregation. Both pastors wondered aloud who they could get to preach on such short notice. That is when they both turned and looked at the younger man.
He was just an ordinary brother in the church who had never preached before and was certainly no scholar. But he was a disciple, a student of God’s word, a follower of Jesus. If an “unauthorized preacher” did not step up to the call, how would the people hear that New Year’s Eve?
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers